The constant rotations on the bars, the series of swings on the rings and repeated dismounts from any piece of equipment cause wear and tear on a gymnast’s body, especially the hands and feet. Gymnasts commonly tape their hands and feet to prevent or treat injuries, but pulling sports tape off can sting. Prewrap tape, a type of foam underwrap, goes on before the sports tape, acting as a shield between the skin and sticky adhesive.
The foam prewrap tape that goes on under medical tape to prevent chafing has long been used by athletes. It comes in a variety of colors and decorative patterns. The tape is especially popular with female gymnasts who want to display team colors at competitions. Prewrap tape is also called tape prewrap and prewrap foam, depending on the manufacturer.
Prewrapping and then taping can help prevent injuries common to the hands from the friction of the bars or rings. Taping also helps prevent rips on the feet and toes. The force of impact on the feet can cause a sudden tear in the skin at the attachment of the toes to the foot, known as a toe split, says USA Gymnastics national team physician Larry Nassar in the July-August 2010 issue of “USA Gymnastics.” Prewrapping and taping the wrist helps prevent distal radial epiphysitis, an overuse injury known as “gymnast wrist,” which affects up to 40 percent of young gymnasts, according to Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
When you’re already in pain from an injury, prewrap buffers the skin from the sports tape. The foam of the prewrap covers the exposed skin without further irritating it or pulling off more skin with the sports tape. You can also use prewrap under your sports tape or wrist guard to help a wrist injury, such as a sprain, although you should not use it for a fracture. Only your doctor can diagnose and suggest a treatment plan for injuries. Wrapping can worsen some injuries and, if you wrap too tightly, it can restrict circulation.
You use prewrap tape in the same way as sports tape. Pull the tape from the spool and wrap around the desired area. Rip the tape from the spool when you are done. Hold the prewrap in place, and apply the sports tape over the prewrap. Some gymnasts use prewrap to secure their hair; they find it works better than hair ties. You can form prewrap into a headband by wrapping the tape around your thigh three times and then rolling the tape until it forms a thin headband.